There is a common misunderstanding that comes up when trans people start talking about things like changing or ‘adjusting’ themselves in certain ways.
For example, tell people that you are “voice training to sound more feminine”, and you will so often hear, “Why not just talk naturally? You don’t need to force your voice to sound different! There’s nothing wrong with your God-given voice as it is!”
The deep misunderstanding at work here, is rooted in the assumption that there IS a “natural” way that a given individual will walk, talk, dress and otherwise express themselves. If they’re a man, they’ll “naturally” walk, talk and dress “like a man”. If they’re a woman, then it’ll be “natural” to walk, talk and dress more feminine.
But think about it, do people walk, talk, dress and otherwise express manhood and womanhood the same, in different cultures?
Obviously, obviously, obviously not. This is self-evident in our globalized world, as we now have the entire world of different cultures at our internet-fingertips, extensively documented in our anthropological literatures, and simply available to anyone’s eyeballs if they travel through different places and cultures.
The truth is, what feels “natural” to a person is what they have LEARNED, through their sociocultural conditioning, to express as “who they are”. This is true for virtually all parts of our gender expression.
“But there are genuine, biological differences between men and women!”
Yes, in general, that’s true. And these DO have an impact on gender expression. For example, men & women’s hips are structurally different. Thus, you could argue that the wider male gait is simply due to anatomy. The same argument can be made for arm-swing (e.g., elbow differences), voice (e.g., vocal cord and larynx differences), and probably lots of things.
Obviously, this doesn’t work at all for things like clothes. Men not wearing pink or silky fabrics or tight-fitting clothes or showing off lots of skin, is obviously a mere cultural fabrication. (No pun intended!! Lol….)
But for things like walking, talking, and basic body stuff? Sure, this biological argument can seem compelling.
But it doesn’t hold up. The anatomical variation is much smaller than the gender expression variation. For example, with walking, the differences between the classic “feminine” and “masculine” walks cannot be accounted for by sheer anatomical differences. Instead, the anatomical differences provide a starting point, an average set-point at which men and women are different. But, from that starting point, socio-cultural conditioning, does the rest.
Voice is the same. Your voice is not “your voice”, as though you were destined to sound exactly like you do. Again, all you have to do is imagine yourself growing up Japanese, or German, or Texan.
When trans people (or whoever else does this for whatever reason), engage in voice training, they are not trying to adopt an artificial, fake voice. They are learning how to exercise their vocal folds and larynx and the rest of their voice-system, to slide into a different part of their “natural” range.
As a guy, for example, you probably emphasized over your life, more depth and resonance, so you can sound “more masculine”.
The ridiculous example of this is in Avengers: Infinity War, when Quill (Starlord), and his crew encounter Thor. Quill is quite threatened by Thor’s oozing masculinity, so in a kind of macho pissing contest, Quill adopts a deeper, huskier voice as he asserts that he is in charge. Rocket, the raccoon, then points it out and makes fun of him, but Quill, of course, denies that he’s doing anything and insists it’s just his normal voice.
In a less ridiculous fashion, this is what we have all done as we’ve grown up. We’ve learned to accentuate our voice in the ways that fit our personality expression. Whether we’re louder, huskier, breathier, softer, more flat, more sing-song, SOME of those differences are inborn and reflect our sheer anatomical uniqueness. But the rest is learned behaviour. It’s how we have been shaped, and then we have internalized that as “who we are” so deeply that it feels “natural” to us.
But if you want, with a little bit of practice, you can adjust to a different voice that will feel natural to you eventually. You can walk with a different posture or gait. You can be more or less assertive in social situations. You can talk louder, or softer, or more sing-song, or huskier. And if you are being sincere with yourself, and practicing, you will find a whole range of possibilities of what is “natural” to you.
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You Are A Spaceship
People seem to imagine Gender like it’s a switch with Male and Female as the only “standard” positions (although, grudgingly, they might admit there’s a mid-point on the switch for “other-things-that-we-don’t-really-understand-but-barely-exist-anyway-so-let’s-not-worry-about-it”).
Instead of Gender being a switch, imagine it like the command bridge of the Starship Enterprise. There’s a whole bunch of different knobs and buttons and slidey-things and dials and cool shit, and you can adjust them all! As you do so, that spaceship can go anywhere; you can explore the whole universe.
I think about gender this way. Your body and gender expression is a spaceship. You have tons of dials you can turn in whatever way you want. Even just in walking and standing, you can inhabit your body in countless subtly different ways. Then you add the way you speak, the way you dress, the way you move in social spaces, etc.etc.etc., and it becomes clear very quickly that “Gender” is not at all as simple as figuring out whether you’re a man or a woman by looking at your genitals. You can FEEL all sorts of different nuances as “who you are.”
To me, that is what being trans is. It’s not figuring out whether I belong in the girl camp or guy camp, so much as it’ s figuring out how I like all my dials to be adjusted and what heading this spaceship should go, and at what warp speed.
Sorry to mix metaphors, but I also like seeing Gender as though you’re setting up the equalizer for your stereo system. It is a process of discovering what resonates most authentically and joyfully with you, versus what “just doesn’t feel right”.
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Maybe this is how I’ll answer those attack-helicopter people when they ask, “So are you a woman now, or what?”
“I’m a spaceship.”